FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas hopes to break a one-game losing streak this season and also get back on track against Texas A&M.
Arkansas leads the all-time series 41-31-3 against the former Southwest Conference foe. However, Arkansas hasn’t won in this series since a 42-38 comeback win in 2011. The Aggies won last year 24-17.
While the Aggies are 7-0 against Arkansas since the 2012 season, three of those wins required overtime. The Aggies won 35-28 in 2014, 28-21 in 2015 and then 50-43 in 2017, all three in overtime.
Both teams enter the game 2-2, but Arkansas is coming off a tough 31-24 loss to San Jose State at home this past Saturday. Chad Morris is looking for his team to compete much harder and play better this week. He has even changed a few things Arkansas has done during the week.
“I think the biggest thing is focusing on why the results happened like they did,” Morris said. “The results are behind us. It’s why and what happened. Our big focus has been on why. And so I think we did a few things this week to change things up. Changed a few team meetings up and changed some how we do things and just kind of get out of a little bit of a routine and moved them inside. That’s been part of the plan this week.”
Arkansas practiced inside on both Tuesday and Wednesday preparing for Saturday’s game which will be played in AT&T Stadium.
“Yeah, it’s got a lot to do with it,” Morris said. “Just change a little bit of the venue up and try to get the music up a little bit in there and create crowd noise.”
As noted earlier, the losses have mounted for Arkansas in this series, but how big would a win on Saturday be?
“Well, anytime you can get a conference win would be huge,” Morris said. “To go on the road, go to Dallas, a big part of our footprint in recruiting would be huge. It’s a big game for both teams. Both teams backs against the wall. You’re gonna see the best of both football teams Saturday morning. It would be huge for this football program moving forward.”
The Aggies are usually big on the defensive front and this year is no different. The Aggies are led by junior Justin Madubuike, 6-3, 304, and sophomore Bobby Brown III, 6-4, 325, at the two tackles.
“They are very sound, big and physical,” Morris said. “They’ve created a lot of TFLs, tackles for loss, this year. They are very disruptive. I think when you look at last week’s game Auburn had 299 yards of total offense. They ran the ball, but they had to work for everything they get. That’s the one thing when you watch film of these guys you have to work for everything you get.
“We’ve got to play well. Again, it’s a different Saturday and I say it all the time it’s how we play, not who we play. We’ve got to play really well this Saturday.”
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher isn’t buying into the 23 1/2-point favorite role knowing they are facing an Arkansas team, like them, with their backs to the wall.
“I expect every game I have to be a very tough game,” Fisher said. “It’s a great league and has great players and plus there’s rivalry and tradition and all the things that go into it.
“I have no idea that we were favored that much, and like I said, I can’t see that on film. We’re trying to get first downs and get stops and be able to kick it and do the right thing. But no, they’ll be ready to play, hopefully we’ll be ready to play and it’ll probably be another great game.”
Both Fisher and Morris are in their second year at the current schools. Last year’s game went down to the final series. A&M scored 24 points, but one of its touchdowns was a kickoff return to start the game. What did Arkansas do defensively last year to cause so many problems?
“They ran their normal defense,” Fisher said. “We had some opportunities on some things and they defeated some blocks. We just looked at a couple of plays from that game where we had opportunities to make some plays. One of them was a run in which he had that we thought could have walked … that could have been a big touchdown run. They just defeated a block. It was that simple.
“I mean their guys got off blocks, made blocks and did a really good job. They changed some schemes. They of course were probably more cognizant of him from watching him. But at the same time, they did a good job. Sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s players just beating blocks sometimes. You know what I mean. It’s not anything schematically that’s drastically different. I mean there’s a couple of those plays they did.”
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond is a threat to both pass and run. This season he has only attempted 23 rushes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Morris thinks the Hogs could see more of Mond running the ball this week.
“I do think you will see Kellen run the football this week,” Morris said. “I fully expect that. I think when you look at this year and see some of the breakdowns we’ve had in a few of those contain areas that have allowed the quarterback to run the football. I think there were some things last week where the quarterback could have run the football on some occasions and he didn’t. I think we are definitely going to have to be on high alert for that.”
Mond has completed 94 of 146 passes for 1,082 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. The A&M offense led by Mond has impressed Morris.
“Well I think obviously the decision making with Kellen and the speed that those guys have out on the edge, the size of their receivers,” Morris said. “That’s one thing that’s been very impressive to watch them offensively. Obviously Coach does a really good job of mixing up and trying to be as balanced as he possibly can. But it’s the size of the receivers, the decision making of Kellen, to me, has been very much impressive this young part of the season.”
The game will kickoff at 11 a.m. on ESPN. It will be played in AT&T Stadium in Arlington the home of the Dallas Cowboys.